All items, events, articles, recommendations, links and comments are displayed because they have special significance and personal interest for me. Perhaps they will for you.

Ronda Stevenson

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Parenting Expectations...Then Reality

First, a special Mother's Day 2012 call out to my daughter, Destyn, who will welcome her first child, a son, in August. Congratulations to Destyn and to my son-in-law, Doug, as they look forward to and embark on this journey of parenthood.

Ah, Mother's Day. The day we mothers cling to for validation that we did a good job as parents, as mothers. That special day that our offspring look to us with gratitude and declare how lucky they are to have us as their very own. The perfect mother. Right?

Truth is, real life is usually a bit different from the sweet sentiments expressed in greeting cards, though I am a sucker for the sappy sentiments. I, for one, often reflect back on the 42 plus years of raising children and cringe at some of my parenting skills, or lack thereof. Especially the early years with my first son, Jeff, when being a parent is like being put on a motorcycle before you've even ridden the tricycle. No rule book. No helmet. No training wheels. Few instructions, even fewer warnings. My son was on a journey with me without sign posts, without maps.

Oh, there are books and more books to help the new, struggling mom (and dad) to get through the never ending changes that accompany growing babies and children. And, if they are lucky, there is a strong network of support. Of course, that support may come with lots of well-meaning advice with varying degrees of accuracy, some welcome, some perhaps not. Much of what is written seems practical enough, but is mostly "blah, blah, blah" until you've actually come face to face with each new milestone, mood, drama and boo boo in real life. I think there are very few 'textbook' children and lots of dogeared books gathering dust in the corner.

The challenge of raising children is exactly that. A challenge. Everything we do and say has some kind of an impact on our child. It's a road that we begin with love so intense and perfect that it's difficult to imagine anything different. And then we begin the first week with that new little bundle of crying, eating, pooping, peeing, more crying, sleeping...and then it starts over again. Thank goodness we get to experience the sweet coos, the nuzzles, the funny yet adorable little face, miniature fingers and toes and the blessed quiet while they sleep warm in our arms or cozy in our neck.

The reality is sometimes unexpected. It's tough at times. Horrible at other times. But, for me, the most challenging times have become a hazy memory, like the labor of childbirth. Maybe that's why we keep going back for more. The more challenging moments are not the ones that come to mind when I think about all of those years. The ones that are in the forefront, that I recall more vividly, are the sweetest ones. The laughter, the ridiculously silly antics, the snuggles while reading stories, the affectionate hugs and kisses, sitting on the floor playing games, and so much more.

That is the reality. Over time, the positive memories will usually win out over the more difficult or heartbreaking ones. I wouldn't change my life with my children. I'm lucky to have them and I'm grateful for my memories with them.

You will be, too.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hot Chorizo Dip and Love in the Kitchen

This Hot Chorizo Dip is too tantalizing not to share. Although I absolutely love to eat most any type of food, my lifetime favorite is still Mexican cuisine. I love the spices, the heat, the textures and the inviting fragrance that fills the house (or restaurant) when Mexican food is on the menu.

Twenty or so years ago, when my son, Jeff, and daughter-in-law, Nicole, were in the early months of their relationship, they lived with me for awhile. Nicole is of Hispanic descent and comes from a large family where mom, Rita, cooked traditional Mexican dishes. Lucky me! Once in awhile Nicole would take over the kitchen and give us a sample of her family's culinary experience. I have had the delightful opportunity to love and embrace this precious and caring woman who brings light, life and grace to my family and who I am thankful to call my 'daughter'. Over the years, I have also had many opportunities to watch her adventures in the kitchen. She's creative and has no fear. She's willing to tackle difficult dishes that are totally new to her experience. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In my world that comes under the heading of 'bravery'. She could teach me a lot! Actually, she does teach me a lot...about unconditional love, forgiveness, tenacity and heart.

One Christmas, knowing that Nicole was very homesick, her mom sent her a huge box of homemade tamales that she had made especially for her. They were packed in dry ice and shipped from California to Washington. What a treat! Our whole family had the pleasure of enjoying this traditional holiday dish. Making tamales is quite an intimidating process that is probably too involved and scary for me to try. So it was marvelous to enjoy this special gift and to appreciate the many hours that were required for its preparation.

Being that I'm not a very adventurous or talented cook, the recipes that I typically share here don't have many ingredients and are fairly simple to create. This Hot Chorizo Dip is one of those recipes.

Ingredients you will need:

  • 12 ounces chorizo
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 cup refried beans
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions, diced

  • The web site where this tasty creation originated and where you will find the directions to create this party masterpiece has so many delicious looking recipes that I could spend months trying them out. I probably won't do that much cooking, but I'll share with you the ones that I am willing to brave.

    I deviated a bit from the topic of recipes, but family is the heart and soul of all that has meaning in my life. Those treasured relationships and experiences are never very far from my sight and mind. For me, that is the recipe for living. So I share these tidbits with you.

    Enjoy life, enjoy family...and enjoy the living that takes place in the kitchen. Life's circumstances are ever changing and unpredictable, so always take the time to reach out and share your love with those who are important to you. Never take anything for granted.

    Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag

    This delight falls under my "not so good for my waistline" category. As I mentioned before, I want to be a good girl, but sometimes I just can't help myself. I found this on the website and followed the link to this scrumptious looking and dangerously simple recipe. The great thing about this treat, and also the dangerous element, is that you may already have the ingredients in your refrigerator and cupboards, just waiting to be discovered.

    2 zipper freezer bags, one gallon and one quart
    1 C. cream
    1 C. milk
    6 Tbs. sugar
    2 tsp. vanilla
    This link will take you directly to the instructions. You may also enjoy other crafty ideas from this site.

    If you do try this recipe, I would appreciate your comments and ideas.

    Enjoy a little summer treat in the middle of winter! Live on the wild side!

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Ripple Effect in a Small World

    You've had moments of odd coincidence in your life, right? You've met a person that randomly has a connection to you, or you have been thinking of something only to have it mentioned by someone else or you're singing a song then suddenly there it is being played on the radio! Yes? Random coincidence?

    As I mentioned in a previous article, the adoptive family of one of my foster babies still remains close to my heart and maintains contact and visits with me. A few years ago, early in our relationship, I was enjoying a family dinner at their home with 'our' baby, his new mom and dad, his new sister, who had just months before been adopted from Ethiopia, and his new grandparents on the mom's side.

    Conversation led to questions about my own four children, what they're like and what they do. I told them that my oldest daughter, Destyn, works for chef Mario Batali in Las Vegas. There's a gasp from the table! The new grandmother is cousin to Mario! Plenty of conversation and wow, that's amazing! What are the odds?

    Conversation continues to inquiries about my youngest daughter. I mention her name, Savannah Joy. Dead silence around the table. Everyone looks at each other. Expressions surprised. Savannah Joy is the name given to their newly adopted daughter from Ethiopia.

    Twenty years ago my oldest son, Jeff, met his wife, Nicole, in Germany while he was in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Ramstein AFB. Nicole was vacationing in Germany visiting her brother who was also in the Air Force. Her family lived in California and we lived in Washington. These two young people met and fell in love a world away from their homes.  Conversations with Nicole eventually revealed that her father had taught at my alma mater, Glendora High School, in southern California. Glendora is a very small town in a suburb of Los Angeles County and to my knowledge very few people have even heard of  Glendora.

    I admit, these aren't earth shaking examples of amazing coincidences, but it does get me thinking about how very small the world is.  We all have probably had those odd moments of, "Wow, that's weird."

    With the age of technology, our world IS becoming smaller and smaller. We can make a comment and instantaniously have it available to millions of people around the globe. It used to be that a whispered comment to a friend might spread across the neighborhood back fences or at a dinner party within a few days. But NOW hundreds, thousands, even millions of people are privy to some of our most intimate thoughts...just click a button and it's 'out there' for all to see.

    Every day we are keenly aware of atrocities commited, starvation across whole continents, natural disasters around the world, and political power struggles leading to the rise and fall of powerful figures. We see the faces of starving, abused and neglected children, hear of thousands of young children who have been abducted and forced into sexual slavery, look into the eys of elderly folks struggling to keep the heat on and stay alive in the winter, watch pathetic animals being removed from abusive caretakers. The atrocities, the fears, the suffering and the loss surround us, both far away and right next door.

    My point is that the world and all of the people in it are literally 'at our fingertips'. How can any one of us sit by comfortably and be detached as we watch the lives and the tragedies unfold right before our eyes? It can be overwhelming and we grow weary from it. Naturally, feelings of, "What could I possibly do, just one person, that could change any of that horror or relieve any of that pain?"

    To that I say, "Get involved". Reach out and do something, just one litte thing to make a difference. Help one person, one family, take just one moment. Touch one life in a positive way and it will make a difference. When we toss a rock into a pond it doesn't just go 'splash', it sends a ripple that grows and grows. One positive, caring gesture reaches so far beyond that changes the world in that moment. It changes us in that moment.

    And in this small world of ours, you never just may have a personal connection to that person passing by you. Maybe we, as individuals, can't fix the world, but we can start a ripple.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Cranberry-Avacado Salad...A Distraction

    One of the things I'm enjoying while I try to figure out what I want to do when I grow up is seeking out recipes, DIY projects and whatever else catches my eye and interest on the internet. I must admit that all of this time spent is a tool to distract me from "working on myself". In my defense, my hope is that while I'm putting off some things, this process will help me to find new interests and a path that suits me...and perhaps a fulfilling and interesting way to make a living.

    When I share a recipe or project, rather than posting the entire recipe or instructions here, I will provide the link to the blog that has originally posted the item. This will insure that credit goes where credit is due. I will try to only include blog links that are appropriate and that have lots of great ideas. I really do want to behave and only be drawn to healthy eats, but I may occasionally include items that are great for entertaining events and parties. Some may be just plain devastating to my declaration to eat healthy. I can't help myself sometimes!

    Cranberry-Avacado Salad with Candied Spiced Almonds

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    My Foster Baby

    As some of you know, foster children were a big part of my life for several years. With the help of my young daughter, Savannah, I cared for 15 infants and young children. One of these precious children came into our home at four weeks old and remained with us until he was 14 months old. A child who touched my heart for life, he moved to his adoptive home, finally with his 'forever' mommy, daddy and big sister. He is now six years old. We have had the great fortune to remain close to them and to embrace them as our own extended family. They graciously share their lives and their love with us. Below is picture of 'our' little boy with his forever mom.

    This new mother was herself adopted into a large, loving American family that includes multiple adoptees. An infant living in an orphanage in Vietnam, she was flown out on the last plane evacuating orphans at the end of the Vietnam war. Here is the picture taken of her just after arriving in the United States.

    Having been in the U.S. since infancy, she now travels back to Vietnam frequently, even taking her children with her, working to make a difference in the lives of the many young orphans who are still victims of the war.

    The war in Vietnam has been over for decades but the casualties still mount. Lives are devastated by Agent Orange, including children who are born with heartbreaking malformations and terminal illnesses. Cluster bombs remain buried, ominously waiting for innocent victims, including Vietnam's vulnerable children.

    "Vietnam Volunteer Network is a non-profit organization that provides medical care, food supplies, and educational books & toys to the children and carers at the orphanages and Peace Villages they support." (borrowed from the VVN site)

    For more information please email
    International Mobile: +44 (0) 7813 11 22 16
    Facebook: Vietnam Volunteer Network page
    Skype: VietnamVolunteerNetwork
    Twitter: @VietnamVNetwork

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    Joy Beyond the Holidays

    The expectations, disappointments and excitement of the holidays have come and gone. Each year we gear up, sometimes for months ahead (if only in our minds), for the end of the year holidays.

    Such hope, such anguish...what is the 'just right' gift, will there be enough money to cover all I want to do, what marvelous and memorable delicacies should be served, will everyone be happy and content, will everyone travel safely, how can I bear to be without those who are far away, what changes will I make in my life to start the new year on a positive note?

    On and on it goes. In actuality, we can make ourselves kind of nuts with it all. As I ponder it, what I know is that the few holidays in between 'real life' are really no different from the others. But expectations are heightened with a sense of freshness, of life being a little better, a little different. A sense that the festivities, the sharing, the laughter will naturally be like magic for us and for those we love.

    For me, and perhaps for others of you who have been around the post a few times, those expectations and those hopes, reflect wishes for atonement, to be relieved of self-imposed guilt for doing or not doing something that has impacted the life of someone else, to have pains of the past miraculously washed away in the blink of a holiday.

    Well, of course, the holiday magic isn't really magic at all. It's life in a little different setting, same music repeated from years past. We are shown through various media images of the perfect holiday celebration, of families in perfect clothes and hair, the perfect decorations and table prepared, all generations of the family attending with smiles of contentment, 'just-right' laughter and holiday spirit.

    I looked around at the family that was able to share the holiday time with me. We may not be a reflection of that 'picture-perfect' family on the television, but it warmed me to my toes to just be in the same space with these delightful and 'perfect for me' beings, to touch them and to eat the delicious meal that was so generously and lovingly prepared. I enjoyed the gift giving, the appreciation, the hugs, the laughter and the tears. As always happens, always, when my family gets together, someone makes a funny comment, something that gets the laughter started. Then escalates the inappropriate humor and the deterioration of all that's gracious and beautiful. Oddly, it's usually during our meal that the madness begins. Manners out the door, delicate (haha) conversation be damned! Yep, my perfect holiday!

    Some of my children were able to be here, such sweetness for me. The family and friends too far away were truly missed. Thank goodness there are days beyond the holidays to continue the relationships, time to reach out and share moments. I'm often reminded of the saying, "Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today." That is especially important when it comes to reaching out with compassion, interest and affection to those who live in our circle of friendship and family. We have only this minute to make a difference in someone's life and heart...and in ours. The next minute or day may not be ours to share a message of love, support, gratitude, encouragement or apology. Regret and 'if only I had...', are so painful.

    So, the holidays are gone, but not forgotten. I didn't relieve anyone's burdens or take away anyone's closely-held pain or struggles or make any profound changes in my life or theirs. But I laughed and loved and for a moment held in my arms some of my most precious joys, my children. They are moments that are mine for as long as my mind holds out and can retain the memories for me. I dream of having many of these fleeting moments in time. I dream of living long, holding babies, sharing in the love that is around me.

    And for you, may you find the joy that is close at hand. Joy often comes in a moment, a word, a small expression of care and love. Don't wait for it to come to you, reach out and make a difference for yourself and for someone else.